Steam beer? Never heard of it … until this afternoon. I have heard of a lot of other types of beer and some of these are quite good. Rye beer, for example. Too bad rye beer is hard to get. But then I popped over to Saveur for an afternoon chill and bumped into Ken Weaver. Ken is into steam beer, it seems. And now I want one. Is it worth a trip to San Fransisco? It might just be.
Archive for the ‘good life’ Category
I am not in the gaming business, but sometimes I wish that I was. I don’t mean computer games or video games. These are more like media ventures. I refer instead to classical games, like Go. Go is one of those games that you have probably heard of but don’t remember much about. I loved this intro from Wikipedia
Go (Chinese: 圍棋 wéiqí, Japanese: 囲碁 igo, [nb 2] Korean: 바둑 baduk, Vietnamese: cờ vây, common meaning: “encircling game”) is a board game for two players that originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. The game is noted for being rich in strategy despite its relatively simple rules. According to chess master Emanuel Lasker: “The rules of Go are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play Go.”
Saying the game is “rich in strategy” may be an understatement. Go may be the most strategic of all board games. Here is a nice image of the game (from the same wiki article)
Want to play?
Whiskey and soda is a very nice cocktail. But tonight I feel like something special. And I am in luck! By accident, I bumped into a very cool recipe for making a whiskey sour using orange marmalade.
Hmmm … now where did I put that marmalade? Stay tuned on this one!
A Quick Thought for a Saturday Morning
Is “pushing the limits” good or not so good? In western culture these days, of course it is good. We strive all the time. We go for it. In this heated environment, sports and performance in general takes on special significance. It is here where limits are most obvious. Where we can push harder and go farther. We are somewhat obsessed by performers and their performances. So we lavishly reward winners and deride losers.
But there is a downside to this. The harder we push for more, the less we enjoy what we have and who we are. Dagny Knutson provides us with a case study. She was a swimming prodigy who nearly killed herself pushing and pushing to do ever better. Oops. Good thing she woke up.
I am not against striving. I am for striving to live better, not just tougher. We can’t always play for “win/win”, but we can expand the opportunities to do so as we resist the allure of ” win/lose” spectacles. When we are building institutions, this is good strategy
There is a more basic reason to think this way. The more we obsess over win/lose, the more we look for confirmation that we can do something that others cannot. This contributes to what Robert Kahneman calls “the illusion of skill”. This illusion is powerful - where data tells us that we do not have the skills to do something, but our instincts rebel from this. So we persist in doing things that are useless. Not only do we persist, but we emotionally tie ourselves to the process. We believe we can win, even where victory over losers may not be what the game is about.
BTW, we can translate the above into Dave Logan’s tribal leadership model - level 3 tribes are dominated by the illusion of skill. How to get beyond this at the “tribal level”? That is a very big question. We understand at least one thing about the process. It requires a shift in focus from an infatuation with the self to an infatuation with shared values in the group.
Infatuation? I use the word to highlight the emotional aspect of this focus. Where the focus allows us to see beyond the routine. This is the type of striving that I like.
FOLLOW - Do I exaggerate how obsessed we are these days with competition (win/lose events)? Consider these two articles. The first about racing to climb the stairs of the Empire State Building. Is this normal?
There are 1,576 steps ahead of them, 10 to 12 minutes of suffering. And before that, less than 10 yards from the start, there’s a door to get through. It’s standard size, 36 inches wide, and everyone, Dold especially, wants to be the first one there. The jockeying is desperate. In 2009, Suzy Walsham, an Australian, was shoved into the wall next to the door. “The impact was so great,” she says, “that I initially thought I had broken my nose and lost teeth.” She fell and was trampled before she rose and ran on to victory.
The second is about ice cross. Right. That is where four at a time race down an icy course wearing hockey gear. You can imagine.
I am the first to admit it. I am an aging hippie. By that I mean that I grew up during a time when many young people rebelled. The reason was simple. We felt constrained by certain cultural norms. What was this unpleasant constraint? It was over-regimentation, or seeing too much value in conformity. This seemed unnecessary and reduced our pleasure in life. We wanted more pleasure and we found it in things that our elders thought immodest and perhaps even immoral.
So pleasure is for me a “good”, like any good that you value in life. Denying yourself pleasure seems to me a bit odd. But is pleasure the same as joy? Zadie Smith argues that the two are very different. Pleasure is ephemeral and in the end without any real substance. Joy, on the other hand, gives deep satisfaction and can be had without experiencing any real pleasure at all. As Gary Gutting points out, this way of thinking is close to Aquinas who rejected pleasure altogether in favor of the joy of uniting with God.
It is a provocative line of reasoning. But before we give up our fun and enter our virtual monasteries, we might pause to consider whether this is the path to extremism. Rejecting the simple pleasures of life in favor of deeper joys? Many have followed this path. But I would resist the temptation. Both pleasure and joy, to my mind, can be found in life as it exists in adequate measure without having to manipulate our values to find more. And striving to attain more joy by degrading pleasure seems to me to be a form of spiritual masturbation.
Isn’t life joyful enough with pleasure too?
I arrived the other day at my folks’ place and started scratching my head Ooops! What about Christmas presentes? Luckily I took a walk. It was lucky because I passed by the “Ten Thousand Villages” shop. Problem solved, with time left over for some very nice fish soup.
Christmas time is not great for reading. It is more the time for dealing with people. I saw “dealing with” because people are sort of forced upon you. You need to be “on” for them. So it is hard to just turn off and open a great book.
But, having said that, it is a great time to give the gift of reading. And it is a great time to promise yourself that you will be ready to do some great reading in January. With those thoughts in mind, I offer this recommendation for a novel that will blow you away
So what’s the big deal about this book? Well, it offers a great story. It also raises some difficult questions about morality and heroism. Questions that were very hot 100 years ago. And Gide had a lot of funky things to say about morality. How it constrains us more than we should allow. How it even kills us. He asserts that we should break free of the cant and nonsense in order to find our “true selves”. This romantic theme echoed throughout the 20th century and its high valuation of “authenticity” over “loyalty” remains with us as a deeply rooted cultural tension.
I like birthday parties, but I don’t like the old tradition of buying something to bring with me. It’s not that I am stingy. But I never know what to get, and I often find myself racing around at the last minute desperately searching for that “special” thing. The result? Never as inspiring as it should be. And not a lot of fun either.
So I really like an idea that two friends are trying (one is a done deal, the other about to happen) at their parties. They tell people in advance - ” Please don’t bring gifts! But do bring cash that will be gifted to a designated cause.” One friend designated a local orphanage and raised over 1,000€. Another is designating Siisi Saetalu’s Ugandan cafe project.
Very cool for at least two reasons. First, these causes need the money but often don’t have very much fund raising capacity. So you can provide immediate and much needed help. Second, connecting your friends to a cause spreads a great story in your community. It energizes us. That, btw, gives people running causes a great incentive to try more stuff and reach out more to tell more stories. A virtuous circle. Those are always nice!
This is not a new idea and a quick Google search brings up some great stories (like Miley Cyrus’s 20th birthday party) and platforms promoting the idea. Cool stuff. But this is a storyline that we can just do ourselves, for our own friends and causes.
The other day I read a blog post that asked why we are not all using Japanese toilets. It starts like this
The first time the gentle stream of warm water hits your derrière, it’s quite startling. By the second time the water hits its mark, you’re a convert.
Hmmm … not sure about that. I don’t doubt the effect, but I doubt whether we will be feeling it anytime soon. Why not? It has to do with how we decide on what gives us the good life. Most of us do that based on our past, not on an objective pleasure scale.
And so, for example, an expert on providing the good life for her clients like Rosa Lewis never changed how she lived — in the Edwardian style — even through the 1920’s and 1930’s when few could remember what that was like.
So how do new tastes emerge? They don’t just explode on the scene. They sort of sneak in. At first only a few outliers take them over. The rest of the herd joins in much later after they have seen the “new thing” at work. After their mirror neurons have allowed them to absorb the change. Which brings me to a second problem with imagining an incipient Japanese toilet trend. How do the outliers show off their new “thing”?
Hmmm … that would require some creativity.
The Immortal jellyfish man is a Japanese scientist and karaoke singer. He is called that because he studies the process by which jellyfish rejuvenate and his hope is that this research will help mankind learn how to rejuvenate. Nathaniel Rich for NYT tells us the rather charming story.
But there is a cautionary aspect to the tale. The immortal jellyfish man says
“Human beings are so intelligent,” he told me, as if to reassure me. But then he added a caveat. “Before we achieve immortality,” he said, “we must evolve first. The heart is not good.”
By “heart” he means spirit. And he argues that as a species, we are deficient in how much we love the gifts that life gives us.
Hmm … well, as Bill Ury says, we do have an absolute genius for creating destructive toys. And we are often unable to resolve conflict without violence, which as history tells us, does not resolve conflict anyway. How can we evolve beyond this? Bill thinks we can do better by learning behavioral skills. No doubt that this is part of the solution.